Agave Spirits with Gary Paul Nabhan

October 7, 2023

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm


Witwen Park - Tabernacle
S9855 County Rd E
Sauk City, WI 53583
Free and open to the public, registration encouraged

Ethnobotanist, author, and agrarian activist Gary Paul Nabhan will read from his new book Agave Spirits: The Past, Present, and Future of Mezcals (co-authored with David Suro PiƱera).

The result of fieldwork and on-the-ground interviews with mezcaleros in eight Mexican states, Agave Spirits shows how traditional methods of mezcal production are inspiring a new generation of individuals, including women, both in and beyond the industry. Reaching back into a rich, centuries-long history, the authors make clear that understanding the story behind a bottle of mezcal, more than any other drink, will reveal what lies ahead for the tradition, including its ability to adapt in the face of the climate crisis. Essential reading for mezcal connoisseurs and amateurs interested in unlocking the past of a delightful distillate, Agave Spirits tells the tale of the most flavorful and memorable spirits humankind has ever sipped and savored.

The reading will be followed by a talkback with Savanna Institute Director Keefe Keeley. Gary and Keefe will be in dialogue about the future of agroforestry production for fermented foods and beverages in a climate changed world that Gary has darkly dubbed Planet Desert. They will discuss what they embrace in the term slooow agriculture, a means of food production that uses the patient capital of perennial plants, microbially rich soil development, patient farmers and patient capital to promote land health, human health and community well-being, as well as greater resilience. Gary will feature stories from agave-prickly pear cactus-mesquite polycultures as tangible examples of the slow agriculture.

Keefe and Gary have been called the Stan and Ollie of the place-based agroforestry movement, so this is a warning: if you are allergic to humor, take a lot of benadryl extracted from hazel nuts and kheese kurds before the event.”

Gary Paul Nabhan is an Agricultural Ecologist, Ethnobotanist, Ecumenical Franciscan Brother, and author whose work has focused primarily on the interaction of biodiversity and cultural diversity of the arid binational Southwest. He is considered a pioneer in the local food movement and the heirloom seed saving movement. Gary serves as the Kellogg Endowed Chair in Southwestern Borderlands Food and Water Security with the Southwest Center at the University of Arizona.

Keefe Keeley is the executive director of Savanna Institute, where he connects agroforestry and food system work with allied efforts in economic development, social justice, and restoration ecology.